Imagine an ideal environment for nurturing young choreographers: rehearsal and performance space (four hours a week for 12 weeks), an opportunity for public performances, mentorship, professional lighting design, publicity and marketing materials — all at no charge — plus pay for performances.
This artist's utopia is exactly what Joe Landini established in 2007 at his iconic shoe box theater — now on Bryant Street — The Garage.
"About 120 artists come through this space each year," Landini says. "We have about a six-month waiting list."
Landini's self-described "passion for choreography" was sparked during his years at Laban Centre in London where he first experienced the European "tanztheater" tradition.
But it was his graduate-school mentor, choreographer Donald McKayle, who saw and encouraged his talent in arts administration.
"There's such a shortage of people with the capacity to do this work," Landini says.
This week, audiences will get to see eight of Landini's curated pieces in a larger venue at ODC Theater at the sixth annual Summer Performance Festival presented by his nonprofit, SAFEhouse (Saving Art From Extinction).
Performers include BodiGram, Jenni Bregman & Dancers, Aura Fischbeck Dance, Gretchen Garnett & Dancers, Angela Mazziotta, The Milissa Payne Project, Nine Shards and Vinnicombe/Winkler.
Translating work designed for The Garage's 25-by-25-foot stage offered the performers a unique set of challenges.
"The Garage stage is incredibly intimate: the audience sits 2 feet away," Landini says. "At ODC, somebody who's sitting in the back row is probably 40 feet away. Making something readable from that far is a whole other exercise."
The Milissa Payne Project's "Up in the Air," a ballet piece inspired by hot air balloon travel, originally featured 15 dancers on the small Garage stage. "It was stunning," Landini says. "There are a lot of lifts and lightness in that piece. 'Have We All Melted Yet?' is quite the opposite. They're not afraid of the floor."
Other performances include a dance-rich film and performance piece titled "Deconstructing the Surrogate," a comedic work, "D.R.U.N.K.S." two dance theater works, a solo piece about communication and two world premieres, each exploring the meaning of home and belonging.
Although these artists were chosen largely because they needed no hand holding, all the rough performances are as exciting to Landini as these polished ones.
"The most amazing moment is when I see these kids at 4 o'clock in the afternoon at the end of the 12-week period," he says. "I do that 100 times a year for about 50 programs. I walk in and their stories unfold in front of me. My job is to steward that story onstage. I never get bored because the stories are riveting."
IF YOU GOSAFEhouse Summer Performance Festival
When: 7 and 9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 4, 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday; 2, 4 and 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: ODC Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F.
Tickets: $10 to $20
Contact: (415) 863-9834, www.odcdance.org/buytickets.php